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Religious Pluralism and the Plurality of Religious Identity

B067
Session Chair: Corinne Bonnet | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

José Ramón Matito Fernández

Dynamics of theological interpretation of religious diversity

One of the current sociocultural phenomena that better reflects the changes in the religious dynamics is the acute and widespread awareness of religious pluralism. This new perception is also the cause of changes and transformations that not only lead to new forms of religiosity, but also drives the search for new methodological approaches to interpreting the effects of that awareness of religious diversity in the society and in every religious tradition. The theology that analyzes this set of problems has been changing over the last years, trying to find a theological significance to the facts of religious diversity and its consequences for religious practices and beliefs. Through this paper we will try to design a map of the current representations and interpretations of religious pluralism and concomitant phenomena (such as religious symbiosis, religious syncretism or religious hybridity).

Muthuraj Swamy

Rethinking Religious Pluralism: Understanding Religious Diversity through Everyday Lives, Ordinary Experiences, and Multiple Identities

This paper joins the ongoing critical perspectives towards religious pluralism, and proposes to understand what is called religious diversity through ordinary and everyday life experiences of people. It utilizes the insights and tools from recent writings in Subaltern Studies for theorizing ordinary lives, especially the idea of ‘multiple distancing’ (that theorization in social sciences follows), to interrogate religious pluralism that exhibits multiple distancing: distancing religion from the secular, one ‘world religion’ from another ‘world religion’, elite theorization of religion from practicing religion in everyday and ordinary lives, as well as claiming religious pluralism as almost the only way to understand religious diversity, allowing very little space for other models and other forms of diversities. Arguing that mere criticism of religious pluralism is not sufficient, this paper invites to explore alternatives: based on insights gained through a recent field research on grasssroot attitudes towards religious diversity in South India, it discusses the necessity to theorize multiple and integrated ways in which people understand and practice religion – however messy and complex they are – and some of the challenges in such theorization.

Manuel Victor Sapitula

Following the Cross, Sitting by the Bodhi Tree: Buddhist-Christian Dual Belonging among Filipino Meditation Practitioners

The increasing preponderance of Buddhist-inspired meditation in Christian-majority countries like the Philippines raises questions about interactions of two major religious traditions at the level of religious practice. While conversions have indeed taken place, a significant number of meditation practitioners opted to retain their Christian identification while at the same time adhering to Buddhist teachings. Using qualitative interviews with Filipino Zen meditation practitioners, this emergent phenomenon of “dual belonging” in the Philippines opens fresh trajectories of inquiry regarding the ways religious agents negotiate religious convictions and affiliations in the context of plural identities. Maintaining commitment in two religious traditions in this sense becomes an active process of expanding (as opposed to changing or shifting) engagements and resources for identity constitution and biographical reconstruction. These theoretical concerns inform contemporary assessments of the individualization of religion in the context of modern transitions.

Shawn Arthur

Understanding Plurality of Religious Identity in China: Efficacious Assistance and Auspiciousness

Chinese culture has always recognized religious pluralism as well as the importance of multiple religious perspectives; and although the Communist Chinese government has suppressed religious activities, Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and folk traditions continue to play significant roles in the lives of Chinese people. Based on recent ethnographic research in China, this presentation discusses how pluralistic religious identity functions in China, how the Chinese worldview supports and promotes pluralism, and why pluralism remains a cogent religious reality in contemporary China in spite of the influx of exclusivist monotheistic religions. I argue that a focus on lay activities and goals, rather than on clergy-based ideals, can provide significant insight into this issue because of their ability to fluidly move between traditions in search of efficacious assistance and signs of auspiciousness from other-than-human active agents in attempts to improve their lives and to gain support and a sense of hope.

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